Family Dollar is considering purchasing the property that once was home to a Tom Thumb gas station in Pine River. If the sale goes through, what would happen to Spike’s Barber Shop, the property’s only current tenant?
The Tom Thumb gas station in Pine River closed Sept. 11, 2003, and, except for Spike’s Barber Shop, has remained empty ever since. After receiving a letter of interest from Family Dollar, the Pine River City Council agreed to seek a grant to demolish three nearby buildings and pave a large parking lot on the property to make it more suitable to the Family Dollar or other perspective businesses. The building on the property is for sale to be moved, and Wallace Walter Wales, also known as Spike, may need to find a new location for his barber shop.
“The building’s for sale right now, to be moved by April 1. If a buyer walked in and said, ‘I want this building to be moved next week,’ I would have to vacate the place,” Spike said. “It could be that imminent, and yet there’s nothing cut in stone that this deal is going to go through. So, it’s still in limbo a little bit.”
Wales is a fixture in the city. Perhaps nobody in town knows Wallace Wales, but everybody knows Spike. He earned the nickname when he was younger so he wouldn’t be confused with the uncles he was named after. The name stuck.
“The last teacher to refer to me as anything but Spike was my second-grade teacher. She insisted on calling me Wallace, but in the third grade they called me Spike and they called me that ever since,” he said.
Spike has been cutting hair since 1967, locally since 1970. He previously operated out of a property not far from his shop today.
“It was on the diagonal corner of this building. I had what was called Cline’s Sport Center, and I bought that in 1972. It had a barber shop owned by Lowell and Verna Cline. It also had a Greyhound bus depot. So I was the Greyhound agent for over 25 years along with running the barber shop,” Spike said.
Spike’s Barber Shop moved to its current location in the corner of the former Tom Thumb in approximately 1990. Since then, Spike has had a monthly rental agreement with the property owner. That agreement always allowed for the possibility that someone, someday might move into the building and move Spike out, though almost all prospective buyers in the past have said they would keep the barber shop there to draw business.
In preparation for the potential move, Spike held a family meeting over Christmas and asked what his family thought he should do — retire or relocate?
“When I asked my kids if I should just retire they all said, ‘No, no, no. You just love it too much and you would not have anything to do with your time, so you better find a new location.’ So, it’s with that that I’m just looking around and listening,” Spike said. “People are starting to get word now that I’m moving so they are all coming up with good ideas of places to go.”
Spike still starts work at 5 a.m., perhaps as a sign that he’s not yet ready to quit.
“I still come to town every morning at 5 to get started. I really enjoy fellowship of men and I’m as excited to come to work today as I was when I first got my license,” Wales said. “It is hard to just walk away from a customer base you’ve built up for 40 years. I’m not ready to give it up.”
Though Spike does not currently have any certain plans for where he might relocate, he is not yet panicking.
“My wife and I are faith-based people. We’ve always felt our footsteps are directed by God, and we feel he’ll do no less for us in this instance,” Spike said.
Spike has been given many different suggestions. Some of them seemed like good ideas, and some were a little less realistic. To house Spike’s Barber Shop, a location would need roughly 250 square feet and ample parking to accommodate his customers and whatever they are hauling with them to their haircut.
Though Spike might have to move, he still sees the positive in the potential sale of the property.
“I’m very happy for the current owners of this building. Mike and Pat Kitzman, they’ve been landlords you dream about having,” Spike said. “It’s time for them to move on with their lives, too. They are the same age as my wife and I are, and they’re looking forward to their retirement. It’s time for them to divest themselves of rental income property. It looks like a win-win for all of us.”
Though the future is uncertain, Spike still looks forward to it.
“Our God provides, so we’re not too shook up about it. I may be on the day I actually have to get out of here, but at this time I’m not,” he said.